The Real American Girl

Let’s get one thing straight: American Girl -- the inspiration for Kit Kittredge: An American Girl, the just-released movie starring Abigail Breslin -- is a product. It’s a company. It’s a money-making enterprise. It’s owned by Mattel now. That alone speaks volumes.

What it’s not is the sum total of its press. Yes, American Girl is an inspirational and educational series of books aimed at tween girls -- one of the largest and fastest-growing segments of the spending population, as Miley Cyrus can certainly attest. And it started out as an interesting and education-based idea, with fairly pure motives. Conceived in 1983 by Pleasant T. Rowland, the early dolls were accompanied by historically based stories written by none other than Danielle Steele. (I leave to you, the reader, to decide whether anything penned by Danielle Steele can truly be called "pure" without a derogative like "crap" added. But I digress.) Even so, it’s not the second coming of Little House in the Big Woods. Your children’s children’s daughters won’t still be buying Molly McIntyre books, just like my kids’ kids’ sons won’t be playing with my Star Wars toys (more’s the pity).

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts